Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Good Cop, Bad Cop

“Highway 395 left a bad taste in my mouth,” Chris said, and then recounted this story. He was driving along the highway en route to his parents’ house outside of Mammoth. In each small town the speed limit would decrease; sometimes radically. In one of those situations he noted that the speed limit was 25 and verified that he was at 25 mph. He saw a police car parked up ahead of him.

As he passed the police car the cop inside waved his hand in a downward motion to indicate that Chris should slow down. Chris shrugged at him and spread out his hands to indicate that he was unclear what the cop wanted as he was in compliance. So the officer decided to pull him over. He handed the officer his license.

In California an officer has the power to suspend your license. You can get your license suspended for: excessive moving violations, driving without insurance, refusal of sobriety test when pulled over, DUI, driver negligence, driving without a license, reckless driving history, medical conditions, physical or psychological limitations, and other legal things you've done wrong. Chris’ license had expired.

The officer suspended his license. He was four hours from home and four hours from his parents yet the officer wouldn’t cut him any slack. Chris was escorted to a nearby park and told to call someone and tell them to come get him. Then the officer parked his car a block away and waited two hours to see if Chris would get back in his own car and continue his trip. Chris ended up having his parents make the four hour drive down and then a four hour return trip after he’d gone to the DMV the following Monday.

We all have had our experiences with the law, some good and some bad. I had one bad experience as a teenager but many where the officers gave extensive grace though I had broken the law. It’s rare though to hear stories that seem more redolent of sheriff stories that take place in small cities in the south (aka In the Heat of the Night). It seems a simple reminder how easy it is for men to abuse power without legal restraints and balances.

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